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Last Updated: Friday, 21 September 2007, 08:54 GMT 09:54 UK
Protesters highlight US race row
Protesters had travelled from cities across the US

Thousands of civil rights protesters have held a march in the small US town of Jena, Louisiana, against what they say is continuing racism in the state.

The march was in support of six black teenagers charged with attempted murder after the beating of a white classmate.

The alleged attack followed incidents between school pupils in the summer.

Last year, three white students hung a noose in a tree where white students congregated after a black student asked if he too could enjoy its shade.

That incident, with echoes of lynching, resulted in the three white students being suspended from school, but not prosecuted.

All but one of the six students accused over the beating have since had their charges reduced to assault. On the day of the march a court ordered a hearing into the sixth man's detention.

You can't have two standards of justice - we didn't bring race in it, those that hung the nooses brought the race into it
Rev Al Sharpton

Thousands of activists dressed in black converged on Jena, gathering at the local courthouse and marching along the main streets.

Protesters arrived in buses and cars from cities as far away as New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

"I came because enough is enough. I am tired of the way the courts have been treating African-Americans historically", Doug Martin, a computer analyst from New Orleans, told Reuters news agency.

Speaking ahead of the march, civil rights campaigner Rev Al Sharpton said: "This is the most blatant example of disparity in the justice system that we've seen.

"You can't have two standards of justice. We didn't bring race in it, those that hung the nooses brought the race into it."

District Attorney Reed Walters said on Wednesday: "It is not and never has been about race. It is about finding justice for an innocent victim and holding people accountable for their actions."

Dangling nooses

The white teenage victim was beaten unconscious and had a badly swollen face, but was able to attend a school event the same evening.

Rev Al Sharpton
Rev Al Sharpton was involved in organising the Jena rally

One of the accused, Mychal Bell, was found guilty of second degree battery in June by an all-white jury before the case was overturned by an appeal court.

The court said Mr Bell, 16 at the time of the alleged incident in December 2006, should not have been tried as an adult.

Five others who face reduced charges of assault have yet to be tried.

A string of incidents between pupils had began the previous summer.

At that time, a black student had asked the school's principal whether he was permitted to sit under the shade of the school courtyard tree, where white students traditionally congregated. He was told he could sit where he liked.

The following morning, when the students arrived at school, they found three nooses dangling from the tree.

The school's head recommended the noose-hangers be expelled, but the governing board overruled him and the three white student perpetrators were briefly banned from school.

Mr Walters said the white students were not prosecuted because he could find no state law under which to charge them.

The Rev Al Sharpton takes part in the protest

Bowie supports US race row teens
20 Sep 07 |  Entertainment
'Stealth racism' stalks deep South
24 May 07 |  This World
Race hate in Louisiana
23 May 07 |  This World

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